Here is your bye-week reset of the Blogpoll. No more speculation is required: we know how good these teams are, and we know what those “big wins” look like after a few months. For some, they diminish (looking at you, LSU.) For others, they only grow better (hello, Wazzu and Notre Dame.)
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|2||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|7||Washington State Cougars|
|10||West Virginia Mountaineers|
|13||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|14||Penn State Nittany Lions|
|16||Fresno State Bulldogs|
|19||Mississippi State Bulldogs|
|22||Texas A&M Aggies|
|23||Iowa State Cyclones|
|24||Utah State Aggies|
|25||Georgia Southern Eagles|
First, a word to those who did not make the cut:
I like you, Iowa. I really do. But you’ve lost the two marquee games you’ve played, and the double digit loss to Wisconsin was especially bad. UAB, that was a fantastic win over North Texas and you’re laying waste to the rest of the CUSA. I suspect you’d beat a few teams on this list. Problem is, they’re not on your schedule. Syracuse, you are scarily sitting at 6-2. This may not be your year to win the division, but Dino is building something good Upstate. Buffalo, it’s hard to get love when you’re a MAC team with a loss, but you’re going to wreck someone come bowl season. The same applies to you, Army. As for you Northwestern, it’s really hard to get the taste of the Duke beating out of my mouth. Contrast your win against Michigan State vs. your loss to the Devils, and you see the Big 10 athleticism deficit very clearly at play. Still, someone has to win the West. May as well be you, right?
- Alabama — You pass every eyeball test imaginable, except perhaps depth and injuries: Best offense in the nation and a terrifying defense in so many ways, even if it’s “just” 20th in yards allowed. Now, your heavy lifting begins.
- Notre Dame — You had a two-week funk, but have otherwise obliterated your schedule. That Pitt win looks better and the Michigan win may be the best in the country. LOL, and to think, Swarbrick believed playing 60% of an ACC schedule and adding some P12 opponents would help your SOS. Don’t let that dissuade you, though: Your wins are better than Clemson’s to-date.
- Clemson — You’ve played two teams with a pulse and should have lost both of them. The ACC is disguising a lot of problems here. In your heart do you feel like the Georgia of the Atlantic Coast: A ton of talent winning on the basis of those Jimmies and Joes but no real leader? And, like Georgia in Baton Rouge, the next team that punches you in the mouth will be the first one. We have no idea how you will respond, but if history is any indication about that, then the Playoffs will be unkind.
- LSU — Can a team make a playoff run with a game manager who completes 60% of his four-yard passes, a serviceable backfield, and some great pieces on a good defensive starting 11? It worked for Alabama in 1992 and Ohio State a decade later — too bad it’s 2018. A lot of those elite early wins have turned to crap with the passage of time — Miami and Auburn just aren’t good teams. Like Alabama, your divisional fortunes will be decided over the next three weeks. It’s been a nice run in a down year for the West, no matter what.
- Michigan — Hard to believe you’ve beaten one ranked team on the road in the last dozen years, and it’s not like Sparty is all that. Admit it, that kind of scares you right? Now you must hold serve at home against Penn State and then figure out a way around Urban Meyer...in the ‘Shoe. If so, then defenestrate the garbage the Western division produces and the playoffs await you! If you can get Harbaugh to call the same games on the road that he does at home, then it’s very likely you get to dance with the Tide on December 29th....but I’m not sure your fans were exactly chanting “We Want Bama” or anything.
- Kentucky — See that stuff about LSU? Yeah, the same applies to you. This Saturday may be the biggest home game in Kentucky history: seal-club the ‘Dawgs and you will have earned your way to the SECCG, even if it was ugly as hell every step of the way. Seriously, just win out, beat Alabama in the SECCG, and you could go to the Playoffs. How weird would it be to make your fans care about football in January? Your late December games are usually in Nashville or Shreveport, amirite? I’m guessing you really get a lovely consolation prize in Atlanta or Orlando instead. So save up — Disney is expensive!
- Washington State — You really lucked up when Tennessee decided to enlist a newb puppet instead of one of the most proven and feared offensive minds in the country. The late field-goal road loss to USC is respectable, and you’ve done some excellent work at home — no one’s handled Utah like that in the last month. More importantly, the comeback on the road in Stanford may be the WD40 that knocks the rust off your road play. Playoffs aren’t out of the picture; but if they are, blame your OOC schedule and the rest of your conference being head-to-toe #butt. You deserve so much more, I’m sorry. Maybe you’ll get to face understudy Holgo in a fantastic Fiesta Bowl?
- Georgia — So, you get up for Florida for two weeks and then you have to immediately take yourself on the road to face the East’s version of LSU. Did I mention your rushing defense is 50th in the nation and that Bennie Snell is almost certain to be in your grill for three hours? What’s that? An ailing offensive line versus the SEC’s best pass rusher awaits? The rickety arm of Jake Fromm on the road? Pray that it comes down to a field goal; Rodrigo is legit. If you make it past that, you still have the surging Yellow Jackets (did I mention your run-stopping problems?) And then a rematch against LSU or — get this — Alabama? I’m sure you have fond memories of both of those clubs! No pressure or anything — it’s not like you have a history of coming up short in these types of situations. #BigLotsBama
- West Virginia — Road Holgo may be as maddening as Road Harbaugh or Road Leach: For whatever reason, you get up for those games like Bob and his waterhose do before a judicious administration of Enzyte. Next week you face the equally inconsistent Texas Longhorns. There’s no question that you two are the biggest, most physical teams in the B12. But, even if you muscle by the Shorties, then the next game-of-the-century-of-the-year awaits versus Oklahoma. And THEN you still have to beat one of them all over again in the B12CG. Friends are honest with friends, and nothing in your history engenders confidence that you can do this. Prove me wrong. Please. Your playoff goals are still in sight, and in this weird year, Mountaineer weirdness may be just what the doctor ordered.
- Ohio State — I guess I have to put you here because it’s plausible that you could suddenly decide to run the ball, throw a pass beyond the line of scrimmage, toughen up on defense, win out, and then still get the benefit of the doubt over other one-loss teams with a better schedule and without the PR baggage and wild inconsistencies. It’s good to be an oligarch, amirite? But, some honesty is required Buckeyes: It’s probably time for Urban to step aside — he’s losing this team and discipline again, a familiar refrain. Worse, he’s losing his touch: You’ll always have the talent to line up and win 10 games, but your recent losses suggest that you don’t have the nation’s second-best coach any longer. It’ll be healthier for him and for you. Regroup for 2019.
- UCF — LOL. No. You’ve played the nation’s 122nd schedule and have still been eviscerated on defense doing it. Three of your next four are against bowl teams, and the one sitting at 2-5? — that’s Navy. Remember what Memphis did to you on the ground? If you somehow survive that, you’ll almost certainly face Houston in Orlando — and I have no idea how you’re outscoring that group, or dealing with Ed Oliver for that matter. Maybe we can get you a nice Peach Bowl versus Kentucky? You really enjoyed that last year. Regifting is still a gift, so be thankful — that bowl really should go to Fresno State instead.
- Oklahoma — Remember how badly the physical Longhorns bullied you around Dallas? That has to be a concern when you travel to Morgantown. When you can keep Kyler Murray’s jersey clean he can do exceptional things on the football field. But, the defense is as much a liability as he is a talent. Is that enough to get you to the playoffs? You’ll have a few more chances to make a lasting impression in this odd season. After the loss to the Horns, you’ve done so. Keep it up.
- Houston — I love your offense, but your defense makes me queasy. You’ll have to outscore the Knights, but the way D’Eriq is playing that will probably be easy enough. Major is doing some really good work; try to keep him in town when an awful B12 or SEC team with a wet rump comes panting after him like a cat in heat.
- Cincinnati — Luke Fickell has rebuilt your slumbering giant of the Ohio River Valley into a hard-ass defensive unit as gritty as your city. Remember when everyone thought Tom Herman was the best assistant of that 2014 CFP Championship Ohio State coaching class? Nah, you got him. Just wait until he gets the offense back up to speed too! Like Major Applewhite, it’s going to be hard to hold on to those you love, but open up the checkbook: this could be a nascent dynasty.
- Georgia Southern — “Know thyself” is always good advice. With that in mind: Never. Stop. Running. The. Option. Unlike a lot of G5 teams on this list, you have beaten a Top 25 opponent. You’ll sadly probably get stuck in the New Orleans bowl, But if they give you a chance against a half-asleep 7-5 ACC team? The world is your oyster. Admit it: you’d like a bowl game against Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson, right?
- Utah State Aggies — You may be the rudest team in the country that no one speaks of. All you do is destroy the Mountain. Your team of Second Chancers is the best kept secret west of the Rockies. I know your eyes are on the Boise State finale, but watch out for the roadie to San Jose State — the Spartans love to score too. A Fresno State-USU MWCCG would be exceptional, so keep up your end of the deal.
- Fresno State — I don’t think you can keep Jeff Tedford for much longer, and that’s really a shame. What he’s brought back to the central valley has been great for your city that still longs for handlebar mustaches and an anytime-anywhere attitude. As I write this, I firmly believe that you are the most complete G5 team in the country. I guess you could whine your way to a higher ranking, like UCF does? Nah, you’ll do it the good old-fashioned way: kick people’s asses seven ways from Sunday. Now. go prove it over the next few weeks by bumping off the Aztecs and Broncos in convincing fashion.
- Texas A&M — When you hired Jimbo Fisher I said that you’d be a tougher team, a more disciplined one, and maybe a slightly more talented one. But, would the results on the scoreboard really be any different? Didn’t you trade one inconsistent recruiting guru for another one? The culture may have changed, but the inexplicable flat performances remain. It’s time to look in the mirror. Maybe it’s not them; maybe it’s you?
- Mississippi State — Joe, you’re wasting an SEC Title-calibre defense and running game with the SEC’s worst starting quarterback. Or is he? For an offensive guru, you sure didn’t trust your playmakers most of the season. But, when you did, good things happened. Let this be a learning experience for you moving forward. Like Georgia Southern, know thyself.
- Virginia — Hoo knew you’d be this salty (not sorry for that pun, BTW) You have turned into a vintage Bronco Mendenhall team: 2000s BYU with a better GPA — an outstanding, chippy defense and an offense so bad that it makes the ghost of Don Coryell cry. Still, you do know yourself and you play within your limits. That’s good enough for a division lead and will probably earn you that Commonwealth Cup that’s been hanging out in Blacksburg for a seemingly two decades.
- Penn State — When you finish that last tumbler of whiskey and drag yourself to bed, you do so to make the what-ifs go away. We know that feeling. But, when you’re watching Michigan - Northwestern in the Big 10 Championship game next month, your biggest what-if will come back to haunt you: “What if we were undefeated? What if that were us?” The truth hurts, my friend, but after 8 weeks, you should be 8-0.
- Iowa State — You too have the what-ifs. What if we started Brock Purdy at the beginning of the year?! You know better for next year, at least. He’s a special kid. And, in a conference that doesn’t like getting hit, your physical style of play (especially in Ames) and an exceptional signal caller with moxy is more than enough to get you on the nation’s radar — and it picks up some quality wins along the way. No coincidence you’ve done both since he was pressed into service.
- Texas — We all have identity crises. No shame in that, Texas. But when your team is built to power the ball, and you’re on the road against the nation’s best pass rush, perhaps you can pull your coach out of his Mensa meetings and not have the guy with a shoulder sprain throw the ball 44 teams? Who are you, really? Are you the team that devoured OU, or the one that puttered around versus Baylor, or the one that Maryland beat like a rented mule? Who are you? You don’t know, and neither do we.
- Florida — No one thought this would be your year. Feliepe Franks still isn’t the signal caller for this offense, and the defense still needs to focus on interior toughness to match the pass rushing. The running backs are good, but none are special. The same holds true for your guys on the outside. But, hey, you can fix all of that in December and February with a just few NLI faxes on your desk. Despite all of those liabilities, you have notched some good victories and are well ahead of schedule. It’s hard to be mad about a 10-2 season, even if the Bull Gator crazies get on you for losing to a more talented UGA team. We still believe in you, Gata.
- Utah — Absolutely no one wants a piece of you right now, Utes. You know you’re a better man now than you were just a month ago. In a division where half the coaches are trying their damnedest to get fired, your brick-to-the-mouth approach is much appreciated. I know you lie at wake and think about that loss in Pullman. Rarely does life afford you a mulligan — it very much appears you get your chance for vindication in just a month. Until then, keep on keeping on: The next four aren’t easy, but they are manageable.